Underbelly: articles

Nine probes Underbelly leaks

CHANNEL 9 is holding an internal investigation into how leaked copies of the controversial crime drama Underbelly got into the hands of real gangland figures.

The Daily Telegraph has been told network bosses in Melbourne want to know how episodes of the 13-part series got into the hands of some of the underworld players portrayed in the series and the general public.

A Channel 9 source said staff had been questioned over bootleg copies being circulated, which potentially could lead contempt of court proceedings.

The $13 million Underbelly series was banned from Victorian screens last week until after an underworld murder trial was heard.

A spokeswoman for the station said two people had been questioned and denied making any copies availa ble.

She said only those involved in programming or selling the series were entitled to view episodes in a "controlled environment" and the network was not fearful of contempt charges.

"No (we're not fearful), but whoever is operating a black market should be. Nine continues to abide by the court order," she said.

Roberta Williams, the former wife of gangland kingpin Carl Williams, said she received nine episodes of the series complete with Underbelly promotional labels before it was aired interstate.

Ms Williams said she believed the copy she received was not a pirated version and would not on-sell it.

"I don't want anyone to see Underbelly. I wouldn't be selling it off," she said.

"But people are saying to me they've got copies. It seems like everyone has them."

She said she had tried to get a copy from Mick Gatto, who was acquitted of shooting Andrew "Benji" Veniamin in 2004, before she was offered copies from a friend.

Another source within the legal fraternity said the DVDs were "flying around like frisbies" after being offered pirated copies.

There have also been media reports of the show being sold in Werribee by street hawkers for $50.

A police spokeman said they were not investigating any complaints made by Office of Public Prosecutions about the series.

An OPP spokeswoman said if it received credible information that breaches of the order were occuring, it would refer it to police for investigation.

The Rising Sun Hotel in South Melbourne breached the ban by broadcasting the premiere on February 13, but has not been charged.

Justice Betty King revised the order in which all Victorians - not only Channel 9 - are prohibited from transmitting or exhibiting Underbelly until after an approaching murder trial.

Underbelly was the fourth in the ratings on Wednesday night, despite the Victorian ban.

With 1,273,000 viewers tuning in, it was the top rated show in Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide markets.

By Anthony Dowsley
February 22, 2008
The Herald Sun